I was raped when I was 17. This is my story
Rape survivor Rosie (last name withheld) shares her experience in the hope of empowering others to speak up.
A friend of a friend raped me when I was 17 years old. We'd been at the same party earlier in the night.
We were getting along well chatting and later on he asked my friend, her boyfriend and I if we wanted to come back to his house – they had a spa and his parents were away at the time. We all went back to his house and after a while my friend and her boyfriend decided to go home. He told me I could stay there which I wanted to as I lived quite far away and at this point it was very late in the night.
I'd never had sex before and made it very clear to him that this was not on the cards at all. I told him I had my period at the time, so I wouldn't be having sex with him.
He didn't listen though.
He dropped me home the next morning; laughing as he said, "have a nice life" when I got out of his car.
I went inside my house and sat in front of a mirror, staring at my reflection and began sobbing uncontrollably. I remember feeling so confused by this, why was I crying? I'd just had sex for the first time and that was meant to be great, right? So why didn't I feel great?
I knew in my gut that I had just been raped but I tried to suppress this and dismiss it for a few months. If I didn't acknowledge that anything was wrong, maybe nothing was? My closest friend knew that something wasn't right about the situation and after talking with her at length about it I was able to express and accept that I had been raped. Coming to terms with this was incredibly daunting.
If that wasn't traumatic enough to deal with, it also triggered past trauma from my childhood. Being raped at 17 brought the previous abuse I'd tried to bury all back to the surface again.
First there was immense grief. Then the rage came flooding in. I began to hear of things that he had passed on to his friends. According to the bro-code, I had given him sexual favours in exchange for an Up&Go drink. He also shared intimate details about my body which became common knowledge to others at his all-boys high school. Two of his close friends sat and joked about this in front of my friends.
My rape had become an anecdote to them, reduced to a piece of banter to joke about with the lads and to gloat in front of other women how their mates treated people. Just your classic 'locker room' chat as President Trump would say, completely harmless. After all, what is it we are told? Boys will be boys.
By now I was in complete disbelief, it started to become very clear to me that he had no idea the implications his actions were having on me.
So there I was, a 17 year old rape survivor finding myself feeling a responsibility to educate my 20 year old rapist on what rape was, what consent was and how he could NEVER treat another woman the way he had treated me.
But why the fuck had nobody else already taught him this? Was it his parents' fault? Was it his schools'? Somebody needed to be held accountable and I knew sure as hell it wasn't my fault.
I decided that the best course of action was to send him a lengthy message outlining the effect his actions had on me. He obviously just didn't understand what happened and surely if I explained the situation he would get it and apologise. At this stage I was still holding on to the belief that he was simply a 'nice guy' who made a mistake. I wonder how many times since I've heard those words. "Oh but he's such a nice guy though?" "His family are really good friends with my family!"
Let me shatter the bubble you are living in – 'nice guys' do bad things sometimes. They are now no longer the nice guys you once believed them to be. If you are not judged on how you treat other human beings, what exactly is the basis of your character judgement?
He never responded to my message. Nothing has ever screamed guilt to me more than the 'seen' icon at the bottom of that message. Nothing has screamed guilt to me more than him subsequently blocking me on social media.
Block me all you like, but I will not be silenced. I am a survivor, a ferocious lion that will continue to roar my truth and speak up about this injustice as long as sexual violence continues to be so goddamn prevalent in our society.
Eventually I decided to go to the police and lay a complaint with them.
My experience with them gave me a whole new insight into why only 9% of rape victims report their assault to police. I was passed from officer to officer, having to re-live the trauma of my story in detail to numerous people. One of the officers told me she did not believe that coercion qualified as rape. "If we were charging young boys for pressuring girls into having sex, we would be charging them left, right and centre." I wanted to scream in her face, "WELL MAYBE THAT IS WHAT YOU SHOULD BE DOING, I MEAN AFTER ALL, THAT IS YOUR JOB."
I am so sick and tired of the complacent attitude towards sexual violence and this was what I experienced first-hand from my experience with the justice system. It was almost like the issue was too difficult for them to deal with. I understand that working in a sexual violence team for the police is no walk in the park but I mean hey, neither is getting raped. I walked away from my experience with the police feeling like their response was, "I'm sorry this happened to you, but there's really not much we can do." A verbal shrug of the shoulders.
The police officer I spoke to was wrong. Coercion is not consent. If you have to pressure someone into doing anything with you, they do not want to. Consent is enthusiastic and ongoing. Robin Thicke sang about there being a blurred line, but he's wrong too. There is no blurred line when it comes to consent. If there is a question mark as to the other persons' enthusiasm, take that as a no. If you choose to ignore this, you have raped someone.
Too many people have these stories. I am not an island, I am not alone and this is why I choose to speak. So that if there is ONE person out there who reads this, who this resonates with, they will know that they are not alone in their journey.
Our current 'justice' system holds very little justice for sexual violence survivors. As I've previously mentioned, only an estimated 9% of survivors will report their rape to police. Of this 9%, only 13% will ever face a conviction. Imagine you are standing in a room filled with 100 people who have raped someone. According to these statistics, only one of these people will ever be charged.
This needs to change. There is no denying that rape culture is alive and well in our country and it is up to us to have the challenging conversations needed to dismantle this. Play your role. If you are a survivor of unwanted sexual contact or rape, speak up about it. Find a trusted person to confide in and whatever you do, keep talking. Rape culture thrives off your silence; your rapist's success in our society relies on you feeling ashamed and staying silent. Spit your truth in their face. Claim your life back; place the blame squarely back where it belongs, with the person who caused you this harm.
If you are that person someone chooses to speak to: listen to them, support them and most importantly believe them. After all, only 2% of rape complaints are false – not that our rape culture would ever have you believe it was that few though.
I honestly believe that if enough people get vocal about this, it will change.
"The rape will tear you in half but it will not end you." – Rupi Kaur
WHERE TO GET HELP
Rape Crisis - 0800 88 33 00 (24hr service), click link for information on local helplines
Victim Support - 0800 842 846 (24hr service)
The Harbour, online support and information for people affected by sexual abuse
Women's Refuge (Females only) - crisis line available on 0800 733 843
Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust (Males only), Helplines across NZ, click to find out more
If you are in danger, or are being subjected to sexual violence, call 111.